EU backs Sweden in Belarus row
Bloc agrees to "send very clear message" to Minsk for expelling all Swedish diplomats in row over a pro-democracy stunt.
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2012 00:44
The Belarus-Sweden dispute erupted after activists dropped hundreds of teddy bears with pro-democracy messages

European Union countries have agreed to reprimand Minsk for expelling all Swedish diplomats, including the country's ambassador, in a row over a pro-democracy stunt by activists involving an air drop of teddy bears into Belarus.

After an emergency meeting in Brussels, Olof Skoog, a Swedish diplomat who chairs talks on foreign policy issues among EU states, said that the bloc would send a "very clear message" to the government of Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president. 

The row erupted after a Swedish public relations firm dropped hundreds of parachuted toys bearing pro-democracy messages into the ex-Soviet state last month.

"Everyone around the table were absolutely clear that this was not just a situation merely between Sweden and Belarus. It's a situation that affects the EU's relations with Belarus," Skoog said.

"There is going to be a very clear message to all Belarusian ambassadors around Europe in the next few days expressing full solidarity with the Swedes on this," he said.

Carl Bildt, Sweden's foreign minister, said that the country's ambassador Stefan Eriksson was expelled from Belarus because of his pro-rights stance and meetings he had with the country's opposition.

Belarus also withdrew all of its embassy staff from Sweden over the dispute. 


The EU message came at a time when the bloc are preparing for a regular review of sanctions against Lukashenko in October.

Sanctions were expanded earlier this year amid growing concerns in the EU over civil rights abuses in Belarus. 

EU governments also briefly withdrew their ambassadors from the country in February as relations with Minsk continued to slide.

Current measures include a visa ban and an asset freeze imposed on Lukashenko and his inner circle including several businessmen linked to him. More than 30 companies from Belarus are banned from doing business in the EU; an arms embargo is also on place.

This week authorities in Belarus arrested and fined two journalists for posing for photographs holding the air-dropped teddy bears.

Relations between Minsk and the West took a sharp downturn in 2010 after a disputed election that handed power again to Lukashenko.


Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
Indonesia's digerati could be crucial to success in the country's upcoming presidential election.
How Brazil's football legend turned every Corinthians' match into a political meeting for democracy.
As the Pakistani army battles Taliban forces, civilians in North Waziristan face an arduous escape for relative safety.
Nepalese trade in a libido-boosting fungus is booming but experts warn over-exploitation could destroy ecosystem.
Sri Lanka refugees stranded on a boat near Australia's shoreline are in legal limbo and fear torture if sent home.
The death of Hamed Shehab on Wednesday in an Israeli air strike has triggered fear and anger among journalists in Gaza.
Israel's strategy in Gaza remains uncertain, as internal politics are at play for PM Netanyahu.
Greece is holding as many as 6,000 migrants in detention centres, in conditions that have been called appalling.
Long derided for trivialising women, Bollywood is shrugging off its trademark social apathy by upping anti-rape crusade.
join our mailing list